Little Italy Omaha: Honoring the history and embracing urban development in Omaha's beloved neighborhood.
Tucked between Center and Pacific Streets, Little Italy in Omaha is a small, historically-saturated neighborhood right on the Missouri River. Joseph and Sebastiano Salerno of Carlentini, Sicily are credited with the foundation of this neighborhood in the 1890s, and they lived and worked here with over 2,000 other Italian immigrants in the early 20th century.
They established the first shoe shop and second-hand clothing store in the area, later growing their enterprises to include a grocery store, rooming houses, and the Bank of Sicily–all without speaking English! Union Pacific brought many immigrants to Omaha, and Little Italy catered specifically to the needs of Italian Americans.
This created a tight-knit community that attracted many Sicilian immigrants until The Immigration Act of 1924. Today, this Omaha neighborhood stands as a foundational pillar of Omaha that molds together community, legacy, and modern developments.
Little Italy boasts some of the oldest businesses (and families!) in Omaha, but they have also seen rapid urban redevelopment take place as well. Little Italy now boasts a unique and interesting mix that honors the past and looks toward the future.
2006 saw the close of the Caniglia family’s 60-year-old restaurant but also brought Bluestone Development’s beautiful, 38-townhome development, The Towns at Little Italy. 8 Street Apartments were built in 2012, Dicon’s CO2 Apartments came soon after, and most recently, 2020 brought the completion of Nove Lofts at 9th and Pierce. Below, read more about some of Omaha’s oldest buildings and businesses and see what’s next for Little Italy!
Keep reading to learn more about an iconic Omaha neighborhood and a great community to live in.
Little Italy in Omaha is a great community to live in. While recent years have brought lots of new development, many families have lived here for generations and still enjoy some of the greatest hidden gems in Omaha.
Orsi’s Italian Bakery is a favorite pizza spot for locals, and it boasts an impressive 103-year family-run history. Located on the corner of 7th and Pacific St, stop by Orsi’s to pick up freshly baked bread, deli favorites, oils, vinegar, imported canned goods, and delicious Italian pasta. You will love the flavors of this iconic Little Italy shop.
Photo Credit The Walking Tourists
Visit Cascio’s Steakhouse for a great steak and a taste of classic Italy. Since 1933, this spot has been known for its delicious pasta, sauces, and steaks. They use a 60-gallon kettle to simmer their homemade spaghetti sauce, bringing hundreds of customers in every day for lunch and dinner.
While you’re here, you can also check out some of the oldest buildings in the city including St. Francis Cabrini Church, the former cathedral of the diocese of Omaha, built-in 1908. See Saint Lucia Hall, built in the early 1900s, for the Saint Lucia Italian Festival–an almost 100-year-old tradition that features traditional cuisine, live music, and plenty of fun! It celebrates Omaha’s Italian heritage and is a great opportunity to explore this wonderful neighborhood.
This district also has plenty of entertainment options as well including the Bluebarn Theatre. Open since the 1980s and publishing over 100 plays, the Bluebarn Theatre has established itself as Omaha’s premier professional theatre. This Spring, you can see The Chinese Lady by Lloyd Suh which follows the true story of the first Chinese woman to enter America.
Little Italy is a hub for great food, culture, and entertainment, and there’s also a strong demand for local real estate. Since 2000, the population of this community has grown by almost 18%, and developers have built a variety of housing for young professionals and families flocking to the area.
According to RPR, the median home value for this area is $182,000, the median list price is $349,000, and a little over half of the homes here are rented. The single-family homes in this area are usually around 100 years old, but there are plenty of townhomes available for rent or purchase.
Photo Credit RDG Planning and Design
Little Italy in Omaha has seen great spurts of development and long periods of inactivity in its history, but RDG Planning and Design’s 10th Street Redevelopment Plan is looking to bring new life to the community. In addition to zoning updates, this initiative aims to: “Locate green space and build facilities in places most useful to residents, Improve the usability of Dahlman Park and invest in the space to make it a neighborhood asset, Expand new housing ownership opportunities for families, Provide a variety of urban housing types, Preserve historic structures and neighborhood patterns” and more.
The design includes a walking loop through Dahlman Park, a new elementary school, a culture bus route along 10th Street and through other major downtown stops, courtyard homes, and plenty of green space for the growing neighborhood.
Little Italy is a staple of Omaha that draws visitors from all over the city. It is a wonderful community shaped by history, culture, and heritage, and we will see it continue to change as new development begins to revitalize some of the oldest parts of the city. Whether you’re looking for food, entertainment, or community, this neighborhood has plenty to offer.
If you’re looking to move to the Little Italy area, contact a Nebraska Realty agent to get started!
Article by Lauren Gonzalez